April's Ag Advice by April Borders March 17 through March 21 is National Ag Week and it seems fitting that we celebrate this week since agriculture is South Dakota's number one industry. Farming and ranching have been the cornerstones of South Dakota's economy since the earliest days of statehood. We rely more heavily on agriculture than any other state. Agriculture production accounts for approximately $7 billion per year.
South Dakota ranks among the top 10 states nationally in producing hay, alfalfa, oats, sunflowers, flaxseed, rye, honey, wheat, beef cattle, sheep and lambs, corn, sorghum and soybeans.
Agriculture in South Dakota is much more than traditional crops and livestock. The timber industry in the state is one of the largest year-round employers in the Black Hills. The horticulture industry contributes over $21 million annually in South Dakota's economy. Agricultural processing adds over $819 million to the value of raw commodities harvested from the state's farms and ranches.
South Dakota agriculture is constantly changing to keep pace with the world economy and changes in consumer demand. Farmers and ranchers adjust their management practices to produce the type of crop or livestock wanted by consumers. For example, as consumers began demanding learner meat, South Dakota producers used careful genetic selection and management to produce learner cattle, meat and dairy products.
Commodity groups in the state work continually to develop new markets for South Dakota wheat, corn, soybeans, oilseeds, meat and dairy products. Multitudes of products contain items that are derived from agricultural commodities � everything from toothpaste to automotive tires, shampoo to shoes. Every day, agriculture touches all of our lives. Take some time to learn more about South Dakota's agricultural industry.
Also during National Ag week, you have the opportunity to take in a wonderful traveling exhibition called "Listening to the Prairie: Farming in Nature's Image." This traveling exhibition is located in the I.D. Weeks Library and was produced by the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution and the American Library Association. It explores the history of the grasslands of North America, one of the most productive agricultural regions on earth.
The exhibit features four prairie farmers and ranchers from South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Illinois, who use techniques that maximize their yield, yet preserve the grassland ecosystem. Jeff Mortenson is the South Dakotan featured in one of the exhibit panels. He will be giving a presentation on March 17 from 2 to 4 p.m. in Frankenfeld A at the I.D. Weeks Library.
He will show a video and slides that depict the restoration of the natural habitat on his family's ranch near Hays, SD. Other programs are also available to the public while the exhibit is here.
For more information contact the Clay County Extension Office at 677-7111. Information is provided by the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and the I.D. Weeks Library.
Upcoming events: Private Applicator Training class will be offered in Vermillion on March 25 at the 4-H Center. Classes will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. or 6 to 9 p.m.